How a Theatre Tool Can Unmask Autism


When I think of Aaditya,
my face brightens up. I feel a new energy. He is an amazing,
awesome young boy of 9 years. (an Our Better World story) (POWERED BY SINGAPORE
INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION) When I saw him first,
some 3-4 years ago, his parents were very concerned. And people say he has autism. I said: “What if he has autism?” He has some
of the best techniques and intelligence
which I don’t have. Aaditya loves to cook. I haven’t seen my nieces
or nephews or any of these the so-called
normal kids making a sandwich for me. I told him: “Aaditya, you love
to make sandwiches.” And he told me “I am Asditya
and I live to make sandwiches.” Children with autism are different
from other children. But they have a choice
of their own, they live in a world
of their own. These children avoid eye contact
because they want to feel safe. Communication is very difficult
to establish without eye contact. And to develop eye contact, we use the theatre tool
and that is the mask. When I wear a mask, all the peripheral vision
is cut off. My eyes are focused on you. So necessarily I have to see you. This technique brought about
a lot of change for children with autism. Children began to bond well
with their parents. Children began to look
at the parents face for the first time. Drama for autism which is
the primary principle of Velvi, has crossed borders, boundaries, and reached many cultures. There are many theatre forms
in India where the actors
don’t speak at all. The actor’s body speaks. So we started training
these children with autism to be aware of their body,
speak with their body. We are trying to help
these children and young people with autism
through rehearsals. So we rehearse everything
for these children. The basic social situations. So these rehearsals help them
to prepare for their life. In our society,
most of you think “Oh, he’s different. He’s not like my son
or daughter.” Please stop. The Neem tree does not compare
itself with the Banyan tree. So accept them as they are… just as we accept the vastness, differences, in nature. The dream of Velvi… is to set up a residential
village-like, ashram-like place. Where young people,
who have a passion, who want to do something,
like Aaditya, Aaditya, probably will be cooking
in the kitchen there. There will be a spectrum
of people doing what they really love. And they will lead
an independent life. (ourbetterworld.org) (Telling stories.
Inspiring action.) (our better world) (POWERED BY SINGAPORE
INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION)

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